February 15, 2011

Fighting government theft in Glendale

By Fighting government theft in Glendale

Author: Timothy Sandefur

I stayed last night at the Golden Key Hotel on Colorado Street in Glendale. As you can see, it may not be the Ritz, but it’s a perfectly fine hotel, on one of the busiest streets in one of Southern California’s nicest cities. Unfortunately for hotel owner Ray Patel, it’s also located right next to the Americana at Brand—a luxury shopping area whose owner wants to expand. And he wants to expand onto property that Ray Patel owns.

As you can see, it’s a nice, comfortable and affordable hotel, with about 50 rooms. Not blighted, not an eyesore—nothing wrong with it at all. But it’s only a few feet away from a luxury shopping area, the Americana at Brand, whose owner wants to expand onto property that belongs to Ray Patel. It is a very fancy mega-mall, indeed, and the government’s willing to help it grow by using eminent domain to take away Ray Patel’s property against his will.


(The "Americana at Brand"; to the right of the tree, in the distance, you can see the roof of Patel's hotel.)

The way redevelopment works in California is that the city allows developers to draw up proposed improvements for the property. The current owner is allowed to participate in this way, but of course the current owner is up against wealthy, experienced retail developers, and can’t seriously hope that the city will choose his plan over the plan drawn up by the politically connected developer. The Redevelopment Agency then holds a hearing where they choose between these plans. Although this choice ostensibly doesn’t involve the use of eminent domain, the plan itself will generally require the city to use eminent domain. This allows politicians to tell people “oh, we aren’t even considering the use of eminent domain,” when they really are.

Today’s meeting in Glendale was about just this—whether the city would make an agreement with developer Rick Caruso, which would require the city to condemn Ray Patel’s hotel and give it to Caruso.

Sadly, many Californians thought that Proposition 99, passed three years ago, would protect them from eminent domain abuse. In fact, it expanded the power of eminent domain, making Californians more vulnerable than ever before to condemnations that benefit private developers. That initiative only protects “owner-occupied homes,” not small businesses like Ray Patel’s—and small businesses are the most frequent victims of eminent domain. That means that property owners have little hope that courts will protect them—and must instead resort to protests and rallies to persuade politicians to respect their rights.


(Ray Patel is joined by his wife to speak to supporters at this morning's rally.)

So today, PLF along with our property rights allies at the Castle Coalition and the California Alliance to Protect Property Rights, rallied against the abuse of eminent domain. The rally began with talks by myself, Christina Walsh, and Marko Mlikotin, and then some words from Mr. Patel.

Then we marched to the city council chamber…and waited.

Finally, almost two hours later, Mr. Patel and Mr. Caruso asked the city to hold off making any decision for a week. Although they are not at present negotiating to sell the property, this week-long extension allows the city time to consider alternatives to simply stealing the property for private profiteering.

(Ray Patel speaks to reporters as the meeting breaks up)

We’ll know more next week. In the mean time, here are news stories about today’s events from the Glendale News PressCurbed L.A., and City Watch.

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